I can’t seem to shake the haunting images of two famous classical orchestras. They aren’t famous for who they were, they are famous for where they played. One played on the deck of the Titanic as the unsinkable ship sank. The other, even more nightmarish musical venue I had in mind was the Nazi concentration camps. One of the first camps formed, as soon as Hitler gained power, was Theresienstadt or Terezín, as it was called by non-Germans. Classical, along with original works composed in the camp were played to give the illusion of civility and normalcy in an environment of satanical horror. Terezín was the first camp to utilize professional musician prisoners, a policy all the camps eventually adopted. Many in Terezín would die by disease, malnutrition and outright murder, but they would die with music in their ears. Terezín, for some, was only a temporary stop over on their way to the death camps of Treblinka or Auschwitz, where the bands played on.
These thoughts and images are cropping up in my mind more frequently these days. The reality of a fatal hole in the Titanic’s hull allowing the sea to rush in and fill the “water tight” compartments was ignored at first, because, after all, the ship was unsinkable. Of course our human penchant for hubris is nothing new, but instead of isolated, albeit tragic mishaps such as the Titanic, we are now ignoring glaring evidence on a much grander scale of global catastrophic proportions. No one enjoys hearing bad news, but to dismiss it off hand without investigation or to figuratively (or literally) (1), shoot the messenger is just plain delusional idiocy.
I went to a party a few nights ago, and yes, I enjoyed myself. In spite of what you may think of me, I’m not all gloom and doom. But I digress. A smattering of marine scientists was there as well. (Scientists like to party, too) Long story short, our own Great Florida Reef is ninety percent dead. (2) What took millions of years to develop, what has protected our archipelago from annihilation by wave erosion, what has been the ocean’s nursery for so many eons is very close to death. This horrible state of the reef has been brought about in a geological blink of an eye which “coincidentally” jibes with the time frame of our western industrial revolution and the start of our sordid love affair with fossil fuel. This indescribable tragedy doesn’t seem to alarm the general population. Hey, Wal-Mart and Chili’s are still open and the game is on the flat screen tonight…The band plays on.
We listen to our metaphorical Titanic orchestra so we can stay calm and carry on, even as our planet is sinking. We can go about our daily lives and be tranquilized by the lilting “musical distractions” of Celebrity and Hollywood. This is our passive, self induced coping method. We voluntarily tune in to all that is offered in the way of escape, be it booze, drugs or reality TV. Much like the character Neo in the movie “The Matrix”, we know things have become dire, yet we cannot seem to identify what it is, so we ignore that scratching sound and take another Xanax. The band plays on.
The music of the camps is a different kind of distraction, a more deliberate manipulative influence. Unlike the selfless volunteer musicians on the Titanic the music of the camps is a forced and cold thing. This musical propaganda tells you the masters are here for you and have only your best interests in mind. They want you to pay no attention to the smoke rising from the chimneys or that water that is undrinkable and on fire.
The perversely named company, “Freedom Industries”, that dumped toxic chemicals into the Elk River in West Virginia on January 9th, made the tap water not only un-drinkable for 300,000 West Virginians, but totally unusable for bathing and washing, as well. (3) The dear friends of Corporate and Industry in the House in Washington tell us regulation is strangling business and forcing them overseas. The last time the ruptured tank of toxins was inspected by government regulators was twenty years ago! Corporate self regulation is a myth and moral responsibility is an anathema to these trolls. The anti-government-zero-regulation pendulum has swung absurdly as far right as it can and needs to swing back towards common sense.
Another example of thoughtless environmental degradation is the new “panacea” of natural gas as the answer to all our energy needs in this country, dismissing wind and solar as silly tree hugging pie in the sky. (4)(5) The process of natural gas exploration, “Fracking”, which is pumping thousands of gallons of water and toxic chemicals deep into the ground under pressure, has the unfortunate side effect of destroying square miles of aquifer rendering water unusable. (6)(7)
Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, the father of the National Park System and a champion of the environment, (8) is spinning in his grave at the prospect of Big Oil systematically destroying the country’s water supply so share holders can fatten their portfolios, all this under the guise of patriotism and freedom from “foreign oil”. The band plays on.
The death of our reef, the poisoning of the Elk River in West Virginia, Big Oil’s Fracking and lest we forget Fukushima’s (9) ongoing nuclear meltdown and British Petroleum’s (BP)(10) Deepwater Horizon oil well blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, the damage from which we still can’t fully comprehend. These are just a few examples of our un-regulated Libertarian future “paradise” that our masters are very busy convincing us is our only salvation. Our masters are committed to the capitalist fallacy of the sacredness of the ever expanding market, that everyone on the planet must have more cars and more houses and more cell phones and more TVs (as long as they can pay). To all my fellow Americans denying climate change, to all the Master’s bootlickers on Capitol Hill defending the rape of our Mother Earth in the name of ever greater quarterly profits and campaign contributions; the sad truth is this psychotic environmental pillaging is simply unsustainable. We do not have another spare planet lying around waiting for us to climb on board. This is it, baby…our little island in space. No science-fiction-last-minute rescue. No re-play, no re-boot. This is for keeps. The band plays on.
Shall we keep dancing on the deck of the Titanic, changing partners, but not our behavior? Shall we ignore the insanity of our precious water bursting into flame? Shall we allow evil to succeed? The band has been instructed to keep playing until there is no one left to hear the music. The band plays on.